Invisibility cloaks no longer just a fantasy

Photographer Carlos Zaragoza had fun with this picture, calling it "Mr. Invisible at the Beach."

If you're a fan of Star Trek or the Harry Potter novels, you will be familiar with the idea of cloaking devices -- instruments that can make objects invisible.

Always a step behind science fiction and fantasy ("If it can be imagined, it can be done"), real science is moving closer to creating materials that indeed can appear invisible to the human eye.

You may have seen the item in the headlines: two separate research teams at the University of California, Berkeley, have published papers indicating the development of new artificial materials that bend light "backwards." In other words, the light is bent away from the line of sight. These composites refract light in ways natural materials cannot. Apparently, they can refract it the "wrong way" in three dimensions, making an object invisible.

National Geographic News has a fascinating article that explains how these new materials bend light around them, like "the way water flows around a boulder."

In the short term, these composites could be very useful in microchips and optical devices. A bit more research and future Harry Potter fans may have an invisibility cloak to play around with.

Read the Geographic article here.

Many thanks to Carlos Zaragoza for making his photograph available for public use.

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